During the draft riots in July he proclaimed the city and county of New York in a state of insurrection, but in a speech to the rioters adopted a tone of conciliation - a political error which injured his career.
During the month of August bands of fanatical rioters in various parts of the country made havoc in the churches and religious houses, wrecking the altars, smashing the images and pictures, and carrying off the sacred vessels and other treasures on which they could lay their hands.
Disturbances at Buggeru in Sardinia and Castelluzzo in Sicily, in both of which places the troops were compelled to use their arms and several persons were killed and wounded; at a demonstration at Sestri Ponente in Liguria to protest against what was called the Buggeru massacre, four carabineers and eleven rioters were injured.
On the 12th Germinal he was in the tribune, reading a report on the food supplies, when the hall of the Convention was invaded by the rioters, and when they withdrew he quietly continued where he had been interrupted.
The sympathies of the people, and even, it is said, of the clergy, throughout Scotland, were so unmistakably on the side of the rioters that the original stringency of the bill introduced into parliament for the punishment of the city of Edinburgh had to be reduced to the levying of a fine of 2000 for Porteous's widow, and the disqualification of the provost for holding any public office.